Stressed? Consider This Small Change For Greater Calm and Focus

Photo shows a person's hand holding a phone with several notifications In the process of pursuing therapy, you may consider and explore with the help of your therapist any number of possible life changes, both big and small. Many of these possible changes might seem time-consuming or difficult. Others may require self-discipline, fearless self-inquiry, or radical shifting of gears. You might be ready to try anyway, though you know these changes will likely take time and effort to implement.

But if you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, there is one small change you can make today (right now!) that can have a significant positive impact on your day-to-day routine. The good news about this suggestion? It takes less than a minute to accomplish, and it can yield great benefits.

No, it won’t suddenly dissolve all your issues or challenges, but it is likely will improve the quality of your existence—with just a few keystrokes. As deceptively simple as this small change will sound, its ramifications can be far-reaching.

My suggestion is simply this: Turn off as many ringtones as you possibly can from your smartphone or iPad. The more ringtones you turn off, the greater the possible benefits.

How Ringtones Train the Brain

Every time a little tone alerts us to another email, instant message, or call, our brains are being trained. Neurologists tell us neurons that fire together wire together. What this means is, every time we hear a tone and associate it with feeling wanted or an urgent need to check something, we create stronger and stronger neural pathways in our brain that make us more eager (one might even say anxious) for that next ping. Smartphones and other devices such as iPads alert us to all sorts of information, not all of it useful or welcome. But we still become conditioned to checking those alerts.

Is this really the best way to shape our brains? I doubt it. By deactivating many of the sound alerts on our devices, we might be able to find more peace. After all, each time we hear one of these tones, it interrupts whatever it is we are doing, experiencing, or thinking. Constant interruptions disrupt the flow of life and can also inhibit creativity. They also insidiously create an internal state of waiting for the next text, email, or call, which can seriously harsh our mellow. In addition, if we don’t hear as many of those sound alerts as we want to, we may come to feel disconnected, lonely, and bereft.

Take Charge

My suggestion is this: Resist the urge to know exactly what’s happening from one second to the next and choose to be in the now, to be less distracted and more present. Practicing mindfulness is, after all, one of the best ways to squeeze more joy out of life. The fewer distractions, the more likely we will be able to remain in the moment, whether the moment is enjoying our favorite food or managing a crisis. Attending to every little beep on a device distracts us from being present and interferes with our ability to concentrate our energy on what is happening.

Remember, it’s always possible to catch up with an email, text, or phone call, but it’s not so easy to recapture a state of peace or presence. We can all try harder to say no to the incessant interruptions from devices and say yes to reclaiming life. We miss out on a lot when we keep looking back to our phones!

The fewer distractions, the more likely we will be able to remain in the moment, whether the moment is enjoying our favorite food or managing a crisis. Attending to every little beep on a device distracts us from being present and interferes with our ability to concentrate our energy on what is happening.

I realize there is something comforting about constant reminders. They keep us feeling connected to others. They might make us feel desired, and the ego just loves to feed at that trough. But does that feeling fuel your highest good? Perhaps being in the moment, whatever that moment entails, is far more nourishing than hearing those extra little pings that give our egos a nanosecond of joy.

If you are in doubt over the ability of these audible reminders to interfere with your happiness, I encourage you to try turning them off for even a couple of weeks and pay attention to how you feel during that time.

There is a reason why one of the most basic yogic precepts is the value of concentration. Concentration allows us to focus on what we’re doing in the moment. Focusing on one thing at a time enables our nervous system to calm down. Anything that interrupts our natural flow and ability to concentrate is, by definition, likely to create more tension, stress, and internal dissonance.

Consider giving yourself this opportunity to experience greater peace, focus, and calm!

© Copyright 2017 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Nicole Urdang, MS, NCC, DHM, LMHC, therapist in Buffalo, New York

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Donny

    Donny

    October 13th, 2017 at 12:06 PM

    I was actually thinking that getting rid of my phone for a while might help to alleviate much of my stress.

  • Olivia

    Olivia

    October 16th, 2017 at 7:19 AM

    LOL why does this remind me of Pavlov and the bell?

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